How to Start Winning More Pots Without Having to Show the Best Hand
Everybody gets dealt the same amount of good hands and bad hands in poker over the long run. So why is it that some people have huge success in this game and even turn it into a career in some cases, while most others struggle as small winners, break-even players, or worse?
The answer is pretty simple, really. Some players — the ones consistently enjoying success — win more pots without having to show the best hand.
Learning how to win more pots without the best hand is truly the holy grail of how to win at poker. In this article, I am going to give you three concrete strategies that you can start using today to make that happen.
1. Steal the Blinds More Often
When people think of winning more pots without the best hand, they rarely think of the most common and easiest way to start doing this. And it all happens before the flop.
Every time you successfully steal the blinds you win the value of the small blind and big blind (usually 1.5 big blinds total) without ever even needing to show your hand at all.
When a good win rate at the lower limits online these days is often considered to be as little as 5 BB/100 (five big blinds per 100 hands), I am sure that you can see the value of winning this 1.5 BB a little bit more often.
My suggestion is to look for more spots where the blinds appear to be tight players who are unlikely to play back at you without a really strong hand. This is a very common occurrence these days at the lower stakes.
In these cases you can open up your stealing range to include many more hands than you normally do such as -suited, -suited, and the like.
Don't go too crazy, though, and start raising with any trash like -offsuit or it will become too obvious what you are doing. Make sure that you still have some standards.
2. Semi-Bluff Raise the Flop
Another way to start winning more pots without showdown is to semi-bluff raise on the flop. Many people discount the raise option these days and opt just to call instead in these spots.
In many cases calling can be fine, but the great thing about mixing in some raises is that it will often end the hand right then and there. Or it will at least give you control of the pot again.
For example, say you have on a flop. That's a hand with a lot of hidden equity — two backdoor draws (flush and straight), plus two strong overcards. In such a situation, a raise on the flop can often give you even more ways to win the pot.
Sometimes after you raise your opponent will fold a better hand such as middle pair or bottom pair and you will win the pot straight away — which is, of course, awesome. But even if your opponent calls, you can follow up with another bet on so many turn cards such as any heart, ace, king, queen, or jack.
Don't get me wrong. Just calling on the flop here is totally fine and it is what you should be doing most of the time as well.
But if you want to start winning more pots without showing hands down, then mixing in a creative play like this on occasion can really help you achieve that goal. It will also make you a much more difficult player against whom to play.
3. Float the Flop and Take it Away Later On
Another great way to start winning more pots without showdown is simply to float the flop and take the pot away on a later street.
The hand that we just discussed above is a great example of a spot where you should be doing this. If the idea of folding ever crossed your mind, this could be a major reason why your results in poker aren't where you want them to be just yet.
Remember that while it's good to be selective with the hands we play and the risks we take, we do not win pots in poker by folding. We need to win more of our fair share of the pots when nobody really has anything great in order to succeed.
This is a great spot to float because we have so much hidden equity with backdoor draws and strong overcards. In fact nearly half of the cards that will come on the turn will either directly or indirectly improve the strength of our hand. (Again, any heart, ace, king, queen, or jack.)
Floating the flop and betting the turn is especially effective against many of the weaker regulars that you will encounter in today's lower stakes games, whether in live games or when playing poker online. There are many players who will bet the flop but essentially give up on the turn if you are still around and they don't have much.
Make sure that you are identifying more situations like this one where you have some reasonable backdoor equity and you think it is possible to outplay your opponent.
If you want to start winning more pots without having to show the best hand, and ultimately improve your bottom line at the tables, then learning how to take the pot away in spots like this is quite literally ground zero.
Poker is an easy game to learn how to play. Anybody can figure out to bet when they have or fold when they have nothing. But the real skill advantage comes from learning how to persuade your opponent to fold when all you have is ace-high, a weak draw, or maybe bottom pair. This is how the top players truly get ahead.
The beautiful thing about the game of poker is that these are some of the most commonplace situations in which you will find yourself. That is, most of the time in poker nobody really has anything very good.
The guy or gal who wants to fight for that pot just a little bit more is very often going to be the one who ends up winning it. These are the inconspicuous little edges that so often determine the difference between a break-even player or small winner and professional poker player.
Nathan "BlackRain79" Williams is the author of the popular micro stakes strategy books Crushing the Microstakes and Modern Small Stakes. He also blogs regularly about all things related to the micros over at www.blackrain79.com.
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